The first phase of the 37-acre Helix Park life sciences campus that opened last week in Houston shares DNA with the modern-day Kendall Square in Cambridge, nearly 2,000 miles away.
How did that happen? Just ask David Manfredi.
The architect’s firm, Elkus Manfredi Architects, might be best known for its work in its home city of Boston. But more than one-third of its projects are outside of New England. And few are more ambitious than Helix Park.
Manfredi said he won the master plan job five years ago by selling officials at Texas Medical Center and three medical university partners on replicating what has made Cambridge’s Kendall Square so successful in the past two decades. The main goal: integrating the institutions with businesses of all sizes along with residences, restaurants, and nightlife. Manfredi drew inspiration from his firm’s Kendall projects, ranging from the Broad Institute to the ongoing redevelopment of the Volpe Center. MIT started working with Manfredi’s firm about 15 years ago to reimagine Kendall, he said. Ten years later, TMC was eyeing a similar metamorphosis.
“When we went to Texas, we told the story of Kendall Square because we had been so intimately involved in MIT’s thinking about it,” Manfredi said.
TMC chief executive Bill McKeon joined Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner last Thursday to mark the opening of the TMC³ Collaborative Building and the completion of several public parks in a double-helix formation. Mikyoung Kim, another Boston architect, designed the parks. All four Helix Park institutional partners will share the Collaborative Building, along with life sciences startups.
Eventually, the campus will consist of at least a half-dozen research buildings, a hotel, and a residential tower, plus restaurants and retail.
“The real point is proximity, it’s putting all that continuum together in a place where the interaction is daily,” Manfredi said. “Architecture supports it in all kinds of ways. ... You create the environment where people are not just working together, they’re having lunch together at a restaurant. They’re having a beer on Friday after work. They’re crossing paths in a park space. That’s what accelerates the science.”
Hancock hangs its shingle over the Back Bay
Questions were raised when John Hancock dropped its Boston Marathon sponsorship and removed its signature logo from Fenway Park last year. Was Hancock and its parent, Toronto-based Manulife, pulling away from Boston?
No way, says Hancock president Brooks Tingle. The insurer is simply deploying that money in different ways in Boston. Exhibit one: a recent multiday symposium on longevity.
To signal that commitment to its hometown, John Hancock took its Fenway sign out of storage and hoisted it atop its 200 Berkeley St. tower over the weekend. Tingle declined to disclose the cost but did say he needed to talk to Manulife chief executive Roy Gori about it. Gori gave his blessing.
“It’s a visible commitment to the community that we’re here,” Tingle said. “This is an affirmation that Boston is critical to us and we’re here to stay. We would not be putting it up there if we had some secret plan to vacate Boston.”
City officials approved the tower sign with the stipulation that Hancock’s corporate office remains there.
“We’re really thrilled that they are doubling down on their commitment to the city and keeping their workforce here and getting involved in so many of the issues that matter to our residents,” Mayor Michelle Wu said. “In many places, companies might just make a donation here or there, or sponsor an event. But to be really involved in shaping policy ... and important conversations to drive innovation, I feel so lucky to be in a city where that is the standard.”
Healey talks taxes in State Street’s new tower
Maybe it was only a matter of time before Governor Maura Healey’s tax cut celebration tour brought her to State Street’s headquarters, given the company’s role in the debate. Last Wednesday, Healey joined State Street president Lou Maiuri and state Representative Aaron Michlewitz at the company’s fancy new HQ downtown to tout the wide-ranging tax reform bill she signed this month.
Healey said the most significant series of tax cuts in 20-plus years should make Massachusetts more economically competitive. The changes include a switch to basing corporate income tax solely on in-state sales, rather than also factoring in local employment and real estate, as is currently the case. State Street was arguably the most vocal corporate proponent of this switch during the State House negotiations — lobbying that did not go unmentioned by Healey or Michlewitz, chair of the House ways and means committee.
“Good things come to those who wait,” said Michlewitz, whose district includes the State Street headquarters. “The single sales piece is really about protecting our flank, and making sure the businesses that call Massachusetts home have as much of a competitive advantage as anybody else.”
One thing that did go unmentioned in Healey’s remarks: the state’s decline the previous day, to 46th place, in rankings issued by the pro-business Tax Foundation — something that was widely expected following voters’ approval of the millionaires tax last fall. Maybe it was for the best it didn’t come up. The ranking isn’t expected to improve much next year once the state’s new tax changes get factored in.
Walsh and Brett trade lines at New England Council
Boston is always well-represented in the New England Council’s annual awards. But this time, all the winners have strong ties to the city. So it only seemed appropriate that the last word at the “New Englanders of the Year” banquet last Thursday would go to former Boston mayor Marty Walsh, now the head of the NHL Players’ Association. He was among four “New Englanders of the Year” — along with NBC10 anchor Latoyia Edwards, Boston Health Care for the Homeless president Jim O’Connell, and American Tower chair Pamela Reeves — honored at the Omni Hotel for their contributions to the region.
In introducing Walsh, New England Council chief executive Jim Brett mentioned their parallel paths. Both are of Irish descent and grew up in Savin Hill. Brett represented Dorchester in the state House of Representatives, followed by Walsh. Brett ran for mayor. So did Walsh. “He won,” Brett said, prompting much guffawing from an audience that knew the punchline, “and that’s the end of the similarities.”
Walsh said he looked up to Brett, joking about how he clearly didn’t work hard enough on Brett’s 1993 mayoral campaign.
“I wanted to serve longer than Jim Brett in the Legislature. I think I beat him by two years,” Walsh said. “I wanted to get more recognition and awards than him, and I think I’m 75 behind him right now.”
Gone to Carolina...
Jim Rooney spent much of last week checking out the competition.
The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce chief executive led a contingent of civic leaders to the Research Triangle in North Carolina, to learn about why the Raleigh-Durham area is booming and what lessons might be gleaned. It was the chamber’s first “City to City” leadership trip since 2019, before the pandemic. The entourage included state leaders such as Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll and economic development secretary Yvonne Hao, along with Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and her economic chief, Segun Idowu. Their tour included a fintech hub for financial giant Fidelity Investments. (Rooney learned to his chagrin that Fidelity employs almost twice as many people there than in its home state of Massachusetts.)
Rooney pointed to one big takeaway: North Carolina is a more business-friendly state, with a culture “that doesn’t view business and economic growth as bad words.”
Research Triangle executives often use a map in their pitches that shows the area superimposed over Somerville, Cambridge, and downtown Boston — to emphasize all the extra room there.
Then there’s the issue of transportation.
“As I was walking off the stage,” Rooney recalled, “the guy from Raleigh said, ‘I tell them all about your traffic.’”